President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise has been assassinated at his private residence in the early hours of Wednesday,  interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph announced.

Moise was shot dead by unidentified attackers in his private residence overnight in a “barbaric act” by unknown individuals, the government said, adding that the president’s wife was wounded.

Joseph said he was now in charge of the country.

Moise’s injured wife was in the hospital, according to Joseph, who urged the public to remain calm, and insisted the police and army would ensure the population’s safety.

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“The president was assassinated at his home by foreigners who spoke English and Spanish,” Joseph said.

“A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” he added.

This comes just amid escalating violence that has taken hold of the impoverished country in recent months on the heels of worsening poverty and political unrest, a spike in kidnappings for ransom and recurrent neural disasters.

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With Haiti politically polarized and facing a growing humanitarian crisis and shortages of food, fears of widespread chaos are spreading.

Moise had been ruling Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, by decree, after legislative elections due in 2018 were delayed in the wake of disputes, including disputes on when his tenure should end.

The president faced steep opposition from swathes of the population that deemed his mandate illegitimate, and he churned through a series of seven prime ministers in four years.

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Most recently, Joseph was supposed to be replaced this week after only three months in the post.

Alongside forthcoming legislative and local elections, a constitutional referendum has been scheduled to hold in September after it was twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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